At this point in our entrepreneurial journey, we are facing a new challenge. What got us here, will not take us to the next level.
The first few years of the journey were about finding our feet. Some people have a fairly good idea what kind of organization they want to run, and what kind of challenges they are going to face, but that wasn’t me. When I started up, I had absolutely no idea what its going to take to build a product, let alone a company that will survive over ten years.
The product we chose to make was also difficult to build and use. It was also a mission critical software that people would not let young people with no experience build. The only way to get customers was to price it dirt cheap. We built more technology than we could sustain, and pushed half baked features that neither we understood nor we tested very well.
In spite of our shortcomings, people must have found something interesting or hopeful about our product, hence they gave us a chance. We kept on learning from them and improving our product. The weeks, months, years kept rolling past as we managed to keep ourselves afloat. Customers started to trickle in and in the fourth year, we were breaking even. Since our revenue was so small, even doubling it for the first few years did not really make a big difference. We moved from six to eight to ten people in the next eight years.
Over the last couple of years, the doubling has started to become more significant. The product improvements have kept compounding and the product has become more complete and more stable. Now, customers are starting to appreciate the product. From being barely serviceable, we are actually doing something useful.
We think we have a good product.
This is quite an achievement from our early days, when we barely had an idea of what good meant. Apart from those looking for a deal, a few larger, more serious companies are now evaluating this product. While this feels good, we are not really satisfied. What we want to build is not just a good product, but a great product.
We want to build an insanely great product.
Over the years, I have read a lot about scaling. Most articles talk about growth hacks that companies can apply to scale. They talk about numbers, the cost of acquisition, the lifetime value of a customer, the gross profit, the customer churn and they talk about marketing and sales as models of scaling.
While adding sales and marketing is a necessary step to building scale, there is something that I have not seen or heard talked about enough, and what I think we really need at this point.
Insanely great people
While we can competently scale sales, support and marketing, to truly make a great product, we need people who have the taste, experience and skills to build amazing experiences. In our case this means:
- The website copy
- User experience
- Product videos
- Marketing material
Not all companies can build Apple quality products, but we aspire to build them. And we have no idea what it is going to take. We are average, how do we become that good?
Can our existing team members scale themselves to achieve this high standard of quality? Or will we need to hire new people who can achieve this standard? As CEO, am I competent to build or hire such people? This is the real challenge about scaling.
Scaling is not about numbers, it is about perfection.